Lactose intolerance means the inability to digest lactose. The intolerance occurs due to the deficiency of an enzyme called lactase in the body.
This can be seen at times in infancy stage, when the baby seems to have problems digesting breast milk or formula milk. Some of the symptoms in babies include – loose motions, vomiting, colic pains due to bloating of the abdomen and hence non-stop crying and irritability. This is said to be temporary and with time, these kids can consume all kinds of dairy products – the inability to digest lactose only in milk is what is seen in these infants. In adults, bloating, feeling gassy and diarrhoea are some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Now where can we find lactose in our daily diet? Lactose is the sugar that is present in milk and all products derived from milk such as yoghurt, cheese, ice cream and ghee just to name a few. Unfortunately, there are just loads of recipes out there that call for many of these ingredients so what is one who is lactose intolerant to do?
The good news is that there are loads of foods available that can be consumed, and they are delicious and nutritious.
Here is a list of items that may be used as replacements:
Milk → Almond mylk, soy milk, rice milk are a few variants that are consumed by people who have allergies to milk. There are also some brands selling lactose-free milk, so those may be consumed.
Yoghurt → Greek yoghurt is the best choice. This is because it is thicker since a large part of the whey is removed by straining. Whey is the watery part of milk and upon straining, a lot of lactose in the milk is removed. There is about 6g of lactose in every serving of Greek yoghurt whereas there is about 8g of lactose in whole-fat yoghurt or 14g in non-fat yoghurt.
Cheese → Certain hard cheese like cheddar have less lactose, (2 g per ounce). A lot of grocery stores do stock cheese that are made from soy, rice or almonds. You can actually find cheddar cheese that is made from rice, or soy cheese that is available in mozzarella or cheddar. People for whom the lactose intolerance isn’t very severe may consume cheese made out of goat’s or sheep’s milk.
Ice cream → Sherbets. We all love ice-cream (who doesn’t?) but if you are lactose intolerant, you’d have to give ice cream a miss (for the most part). You can however substitute ice cream for sherbet. Sherbets do contain some amount of dairy, but it is low on the lactose — a cup of sherbet contains about 4-6g lactose, that amounts to half as much as a cup of ice cream. Sherbet is an example of a “hidden lactose food” because you probably don't think of it as a dairy product. Gelato can be eaten by people who have mild lactose intolerance. It contains lesser butterfat when compared to regular ice creams. You can also substitute ice cream for nice cream which contains absolutely no dairy!
Butter → Dairy-free butter. There are dairy-free options when it comes to butter, all it takes is to scan the dairy section well! These dairy-free butters are great for spreading on toast, for baking purposes and also when needed for certain recipes. It has been found that clarified butter or ghee is a good option since it is free of lactose and casein. So when baking cakes/muffins, you can try your favourite oils or ghee as a substitute for butter.
Apart from the obvious ones, there are a few foods that contain hidden lactose sources such as salad dressings, soups, certain processed breakfast items. So make sure you read the list of ingredients always!